5 Things You Never Noticed from "Indian In the Cupboard"

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A good chunk of us 90's kids will never forget the fantasy film, The Indian in the Cupboard. Whether you saw it in theaters, watched it in a classroom on a crude projector or received it as a Christmas gift from your grandmother, it's guaranteed to have left an impact.

On his ninth birthday, Omri receives a figurine of an Iroquois man, a vintage cupboard his brother found in the trash and a skeleton key from his mother's collection that opens said cupboard. He then quickly learns that the combination of the key and cupboard has the ability to bring figurines placed in it to life. 

Omri then learns the hard way that you can't play God, that life is more fragile than you think and that there's a lot he can learn from his new figurine come to life, Little Bear.

Steven and I recently decided to re-watch this film as adults and decided it still held up after all these years. The messages it relayed are still relevant, and it's entertaining and poignant the entire way through. But as the nitpickers we are, we also found a few things surprising or ridiculous that we couldn't help but point out.

If this movie was a childhood staple for you, you may find some of these points entertaining. Because you may also not have noticed them yourself.

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1. The presencE of the twin towers

The Indian in the Cupboard was released in July of 1995, just a little more than 6 years before the devastating events of 9/11. So the imagery of the Twin Towers against the horizon showing up several times in this film behind Omri's home really tells you a lot about the era when stories and films like this were being made. 

Seeing the towers in this film really reminded me of my childhood and how different the world was back then. It was a bittersweet feeling. Every time I think about 9/11, my first thought is that I hope we as a country can get back to a headspace where we don't constantly fear the world is ending. Think about the fact that the most popular movies coming out right now are ones where superheroes try to save the world from destruction, while back in 1995 you could go see a movie about a kid talking to his figurines in his bedroom. It says a lot.

 

2. The kid obsessed with JFK

When we got to the first classroom scene of the movie, I turned to Steven and said "Here comes the JFK kid." When Steven looked at me in confusion, I was shocked. How could people forget the JFK kid? He was the little know-it-all brat in Omri and Patrick's class who had a strong obsession with the 35th president. Whenever it was time for the kids to all share what they'd written in their journals that week, this kid just came up with more pro-Kennedy propaganda. He reads off facts about JFK a whopping three times in the film!

He better watch it though, because the kid next to him looks like he's about to become a Lee Harvey Oswald fan if he doesn't shut the hell up. 

 

3. Omri and his mom don't care about his school assignments

I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, school projects were a big deal. My mom and I would stay up all night hot gluing, coloring, painting etc. Not to mention for days on end I'd be pacing back and forth reading notecards, making sure I knew everything I was going to say during my presentation.

But that is not the case with the kids in this movie. Every night since his birthday, Omri had done nothing but play with his new figurine and his cupboard, with his mom not being the least bit concerned that there was a volcano project and presentation due that week! And not only was Omri's grade on the line, but so was Patrick's!

So the morning of his presentation, Omri and his mom walk to school empty-handed, meaning Patrick and his mother clearly delivered the project and worked on it the nights leading up. Not to mention, Omri's mom lets him tiptoe slowly to school and almost be late for class on the day of a presentation.

Doesn't Patrick's mom have enough on her plate, dealing with a toddler she has to carry on her back at all times? And when Omri's dad irresponsibly lets him leave the house with money and he gets mugged, Patrick's mom is the one who finds him crying in the street. I bet I know what she was thinking. "Why don't these people ever take care of their child?" 

Maybe that's why she stormed into the house to go find his mother so swiftly after finding him. She looks like she's about to go beat Omri's mom in her Bea Arthur pantsuit.

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And no I don't think Omri's parents are all bad. There are countless scenes where they give him love and attention. I just find it funny the way lazy parenting always seems to make its way into fictional stories.

 

How creepy the teacher would seem out of context

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This poor teacher. It's clear that all he wants to do is keep order in his classroom while also encouraging his students to be creative and thoughtful. And he even takes the time to settle a dispute between Omri and Patrick when Patrick starts showing off the living figurines to classmates. Back in elementary school, I had teachers who would have just screamed at us, thrown the figurines above a cabinet and called it a day. So this was a memorably sweet scene.

But I did laugh at the fact that if I were another staff member walking down the hallway and I saw a teacher alone with two students coaxing one to show him "what's in his pouch" while they other one begged him not to, I'd be pretty concerned to say the least.

 

Omri's house is a free for all

We are now returning to the subject of lazy parenting. On the rainy night that Boone - the cowboy figurine brought to life - gets shot while Patrick stays over at Omri's house, so much is happening right under Omri's parents' noses. And as usual, they are unfazed.

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While their nine year old son and his friend watch the Motley Crue "Girls Girls Girls" music video and all the graphic imagery it has to offer, their teenage sons are getting picked up by a gaggle of buffoons to go horse around New York City in the middle of the night in the pouring rain. 

And while their teenage boys potentially experiment with drugs, and their youngest tends to the wounds of a 19th century cowboy, what is it the parents are so busy doing?

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The only interaction he gets with his mother that night is her coming upstairs to his room to nonchalantly let him know that they've also lost his older brother’s beloved pet rat in the floorboards and goodnight! I wonder if she learned parenting from the same place as the couple from A Quiet Place.

 

I have always loved this film, and watching it as an adult has only cemented that fact. And I cannot wait to share this film and its wonderful lessons with my future children. I just find that every time I watch something from my childhood, I always discover something bizarre or surprising about it. How about you?

Until we meet again!